Lemon Almond Cake

Since most of us indulged during December, I thought I'd post a somewhat lighter cake for dessert during the in-between-holidays week.
It's a delightful cake and originally from the island of Majorca in Spain. Almonds are a major crop of the island, first grown in the 19th century after Majorca's wine industry was wiped out from disease. Mallorcan farmers decided to plant almond trees in their place. Considered high quality almonds, there are more than 100 types grown here and more than 5 million almond trees.

The cake is traditionally served with almond ice cream, but I don't think it needs that....a slice of it with a cup of espresso or cup of tea is absolute perfection. It's delicious, very lemony and it has a lovely light crumb.

Flourless Lemon Almond Cake
From Simply Recipes

4 eggs, separated into 4 egg yolks and 4 egg whites, room temperature 
2 Tbsp lemon zest, packed
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup white sugar, divided 1/4 cup and 1/4 cup 
1 1/2 cup finely ground almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350°F   Place a round of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, and grease it and the sides of the pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together with a wooden spoon the egg yolks, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond flour, ground cardamom, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and beat by hand until smooth. It will be very thick.

With an electric mixer and the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, starting on low speed and gradually increasing the speed. When bubbles start to form, add a pinch of salt and the teaspoon of vinegar. As the egg whites begin to increase in volume, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, a little at a time, as you continue to beat the eggs whites.  Beat until soft peaks form.
Fold the beaten egg whites into the almond mixture a large scoopful at a time.  It will be difficult at first, keep folding scoops at a time and soon you'll be able to gently fold in the whites in such a way as to create a light batter.

Pour the batter into a the prepared springform pan and place in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake helping it to separate from the side of the pan. Release the springform pan sides, and gently move the cake to a cake serving plate. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar before serving.


Profiteroles with Eggnog Ice Cream and Rum Sauce

What better way to end your Christmas dinner than with eggnog ice cream? And don't stop there, make some profiteroles and top it all off with a divine rum sauce. What a show-stopper!
I always make out a schedule when entertaining and try to use recipes I can make ahead. You want to spend time with family and friends and NOT in the kitchen. (Unless you've got the kind of family that loves gathering in the kitchen and they really help!) The good news is all the elements in this recipe can be made days before.
Have a Happy Christmas my friends!

Profiteroles with Eggnog Ice Cream and Rum Sauce
From :pastry studio

For the eggnog ice cream
1 1/2 cups milk 
4 egg yolks 
1/2 cup sugar 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
1 teaspoon rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
generous 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
slight pinch of cinnamon
even slighter pinch of ground cloves
salt, to taste


Bring milk to a simmer over moderate heat. 

Whisk the yolks and sugar together in a bowl until thickened and light yellow. Gradually add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook the custard over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Be very careful not to let the mixture heat too quickly or boil.

Immediately pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container and stir in the cream, rum, vanilla and the spices. Whisk thoroughly. Add salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled thoroughly.

Freeze in an ice cream maker. Pour into a container, cover and put in the freezer.

For the profiteroles

1/2 cup water
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter, cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs

egg wash:

1 egg 
splash of water
small pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil. Reduce heat and add flour all at once. Cook and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth, pulls away from the sides of pan and leaves a noticeable film on the bottom of the pan. This will take a couple of minutes. 

Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with a paddle for a few minutes until there is no longer any steam rising from the dough. (I did it with a hand beater.) Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The dough will go from looking lumpy to very smooth. Continue to add eggs one at a time and beat until you have the same results, scraping down the bowl after each addition.

Make an egg wash combining an egg, a splash of water and a tiny pinch of salt. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with  parchment. Place the pâte à choux into a pastry bag fitted with 1/2" plain tip. Pipe 1 1/2" mounds. (This will make about 1 dozen small profiteroles. I wanted a larger size so used an ice cream scoop. I got about five large.) Wet your index finger with cold water and smooth the tops of each piece of piped dough. Brush each piece lightly with egg wash.

Bake until golden brown and puffed, about 22 to 24 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Rum Sauce


1 oz (2 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons rum
salt, to taste


Melt the butter over medium heat and combine with the brown sugar. Lower heat a bit and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the cream and continue cooking for another 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and rum. Add a pinch of salt, to taste. Cool.

To serve:
Gently slice the profiteroles in half crosswise and place on serving dish. Place a scoop of eggnog ice cream into each profiterole and replace the tops. Drizzle lightly with the Rum Sauce and serve immediately.


One Last Cookie Before Christmas: Coconut Cranberry Chews

The cookie of the century? Really? That's quite a label to live up to. Sometimes I wonder how I miss popular recipes like this one. It seems it was the grand prize winner in Sunset magazine's cookie contest of 2001 and entered by Nancy Jamison. I did a little research and found out that:
"Nancy created this recipe over about a month's time, continually refining and testing before submitting it to Sunset's contest. Sunset awarded Nancy the grand prize winner, but she was surprised that Sunset adjusted the original recipe when they printed it in their December 2001 issue."
The differences? She originally included twice as much salt (1/2 t), the additions of baking soda (1 t) and orange oil (3/4 t), less orange zest (2 t), and additional fat in the form of Crisco shortening (1/2 cup). I can't imagine more fat, but the cookie is dry when you mix it and perhaps her addition alters that. Next time I make these, I might try Nancy's original recipe and see what happens. 
While these turned out beautifully (yes, they are very addictive) and I don't mean to discourage you from making them, but "cookie of the century" is a bit of a stretch. 
Have you made them? Let me know what you thought.

Coconut Cranberry Chews
From Sunset Magazine, December 2001

 1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) butter or margarine, at room temperature (butter needs to be really soft)
2 cups sugar 
1 tablespoon grated orange peel 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries 
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked dried coconut 

In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat 1 1/2 cups butter, sugar, orange peel, and vanilla until smooth.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture, stir to mix, then beat on low speed until dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Mix in cranberries and coconut.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets. Note: I flattened the dough a little bit...they turned out better-shaped.

Bake in a 350° oven until cookie edges just begin to brown, 8 to 11 minutes (shorter baking time will yield a chewier cookie; longer baking time will yield a crispier cookie). Note: they took almost 15 minutes in my oven. If baking two sheets at once in one oven, switch their positions halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets. They are delicate at first and when I transferred them to a rack, a couple fell apart. I left the rest to cool on the baking sheet and all was well.


More Cookies for Christmas: Coffee Walnut Cookies

These shortbread type cookies turned out more delicate than I expected. They are a slice and bake cookie which you know I love because you can keep the roll of dough in the freezer or fridge until you're ready to bake. I removed some of the first batch from the pan too soon (following instructions) and they fell apart. I had better luck letting them cool right on the parchment paper.
Because of the finely ground coffee plus the single bean in the center of each cookie, you'll find the coffee comes through strongly, giving this cookie an intense flavor and even a bit of a caffeine buzz. Interesting addition for your holiday cookie tray, but perhaps not for your kids. This time of year, children don't need any more of a buzz than they already have!

Coffee Walnut Cookies

From Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich via the LA Times

2 cups flour
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh, finely ground medium-roast (not espresso-roast) coffee beans, plus about 
70 beans for garnish
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Combine the flour, walnuts, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground. Add the ground coffee and pulse to mix. Add the butter (cut in several pieces if firm) and pulse until the mixture looks damp and crumbly. Drizzle in the brandy and vanilla extract and pulse until the dough begins to clump up around the blade. Remove the dough, press it into a ball and knead it by hand a few times to complete the mixing.

Form the dough into a 12-inch log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably, overnight, or up to 3 days. The dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into one-fourth-inch-thick slices. (If the dough crumbles when you cut into it, let it soften for several minutes.) Place the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press a coffee bean into the center of each cookie.
Bake the cookies until light golden brown at the edges, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking. Let the cookies firm up on the pans for about 1 minute (Note: not long enough...let them cool on the parchment until completely cool), then transfer them to a rack with an offset spatula. Cool completely. These cookies are delicious fresh but are even better the next day. They can be stored in an airtight container for at least a month. 


Chocolate Mint Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches with White Chocolate Ice Cream

These pretty holiday ice cream sandwiches are nice to have in your freezer for unexpected company. Make a batch to have on hand. Try not to gobble down all the cookies before you make them into sandwiches; trust me, you'll be tempted! You can go two ways with the ice cream. I made it from scratch (recipe below) for this recipe (and served the leftover ice cream with some bittersweet sauce, making yet another company dessert), but another time I bought it ready made at Godiva. 

Chocolate Mint Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches 
The cookies were originally adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2008

1 cup all purpose flour plus more for surface
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 325°. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer for 1 minute. Add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in peppermint extract. Slowly add flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Mold dough into 1 large disk and cut in half. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour (or up to two days).
Roll out 1 disk on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 2" cookie cutter to cut out circles and place them on parchment paper. Freeze until firm, at least 15 minutes.
Repeat with remaining disk. 

Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer parchment, with cookies, to wire racks and allow to cool. Try not to eat all the cookies at this point. Freeze the cookies.

Make the ice cream (recipe follows) and after it's frozen, allow it to soften somewhat and place a nice fat layer between the cookies. Smooth the sides and dip into broken pieces of peppermint sticks. Freeze again until ready to serve.

White Chocolate Ice Cream
From Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
a pinch of salt
8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped 
5 large egg yolks

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, the milk and salt.  Place the chopped white chocolate in a large bowl and place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warmed milk and sugar mixture to temper the egg yolks.  Whisking constantly as you pour in the warmed milk. Then transfer all of the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Continue to cook over low heat. Stir constantly until the custard is thick enough to coat a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. Strain the custard into the white chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
Add the 2 cups of heavy cream and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator (preferably overnight).  
Once the mixture is completely cooled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Flaky Dinner Rolls

These dinner rolls turned out to be fun to make and fun to eat....I love all the layers. I peeled them off one by one to get to that extra soft and somewhat buttery inside. Didn't you do that as a child? We never grow up, do we?

Flaky Dinner Rolls

From Cooking Light, Kathryn Conrad, November 2005

3 tablespoons sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
3 cups all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces), divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
Cooking spray

Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky). Cover dough with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured baking sheet. Gently spread butter over dough. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet (sprinkle on a little more flour, if needed), into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Beginning with a long side, roll up dough jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut roll into 12 equal slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat tops of dough slices with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake dough at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan, and cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Serve rolls warm.



Spice Cookies

These spice cookies are related to an Italian spice cookie and are very popular at the Ottolenghi bakery counter over Easter and Christmas. The recipe was adapted from The International Cookie Cookbook by Nancy Baggett.
After tasting these, I say YUM! Christmas flavors with a divine lemon glaze.

Spice Cookies
From Jerusalem by Ottolenghi

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons currants
2 tablespoons brandy
scant 2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons good quality cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces good quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 large egg
1 tablespoon diced candied lemon peel for garnishing

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Soak the currants in the brandy for 10 minutes. In a bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, baking soda, baking powder and the spices.
In a stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla and grated rinds for about a minute. Add the 1/2 egg, beat another minute. Slowly add flour. Mixture will be very dry. Add currants and mix until it comes together somewhat. Remove the dough and knead it until it until it comes together. 
Break off pieces about 1 3/4 ounces each and form into a ball. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. I pressed down to flatten each ball a bit. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes until top is firm, but still soft. Cool for 5 minutes, then glaze with 1 tablespoon of the glaze mixture. Top with a couple pieces of candied lemon peel.


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